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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Leff Presents A New Method for Funding Law School Education Today at Georgetown

LeffBenjamin M. Leff (American) presents The Income-Based Repayment Swap: A New Method for Funding Law School Education (with Heather Hughes (American)) at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John BrooksItai Grinberg, and David Schizer:

The high cost of legal education and corresponding student debt levels is a subject of robust debate. Yet too few critics of degree cost show creativity in thinking about the optimal mechanism for funding a legal education. The traditional model for financing a legal education is that students borrow with (mostly) fixed-rate loans repayable soon after graduation. The federal government supplements loans with income-based repayment and loan forgiveness programs to protect students who have borrowed more than they can afford to pay back. The reach of these programs has expanded dramatically in recent years, with the programs covering 1.3 million graduates owing around $72 billion as of the first quarter of 2014, with every indication that those figures will grow dramatically unless the programs are modified. A significant segment of those who depend on income-based repayment and loan forgiveness programs will be law students, because those are among the students with the highest levels of qualifying debt.

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February 24, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sugin Presents Invisible Taxpayers Today at NYU

SuginLinda Sugin (Fordham) presents Invisible Taxpayers at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Alan Viard:

The invisibility of taxpayers in the legal system creates a substantial problem for tax justice, both substantive and procedural. The courts’ application of standing doctrine, as well as its conceptualization of tax expenditures as not involving state action, has narrowed the opportunity for judicial review for tax-reducing actions taken by both Congress and the IRS. These developments fail to protect individuals, even when they have substantial individual rights claims under the Constitution.

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February 24, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Makes Standard 509 Law School Data For 2011-2014 Available in Excel Spreadsheets

ABA Logo 2ABA Offers Law School Consumer Data in Easy-to-Use Format:

Information reported by American Bar Association-approved law schools is now publicly available at no charge in online spreadsheets that enable easy searching, sorting, school-by-school comparisons and analysis, the ABA's law school accrediting body announced today. The spreadsheets, developed by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, will significantly improve the accessibility of information for prospective law students, pre-law advisors, media outlets and others who study and write about legal education.

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February 24, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

IRS Audits of High-Income Households Drop to 6-Year Low

AuditUSA Today,  IRS Audit Rate for Individuals Drops:

Your chances of facing an IRS audit rate dropped to the lowest level in at least a decade in 2014 and are expected to fall further this year, according to new data USA TODAY obtained from the nation's tax agency.

The audit rate, the percentage of individuals' tax returns IRS revenue agents examined either in person or via correspondence, fell to 0.86% last year, the data show. That represents the lowest rate since at least fiscal year 2005. After rising steadily from 2005-10, the number of IRS audits for individual taxpayers fell 21.4% during the succeeding five years, the data show.

The IRS audited slightly more than 1.2 million individuals last year, down more than 162,000 from 2013, and a drop of nearly 339,000 from 2010.

Bloomberg, IRS Audits of High-Income Households Drop to 6-Year Low:

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February 24, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Borden: Tax Revenue Effects of REIT Spinoffs

Bradley T. Borden (Brooklyn), Counterintuitive Tax Revenue Effect of REIT Spinoffs, 146 Tax Notes 381 (Jan. 19, 2015):

Several reports have attacked REIT spinoffs because they erode the corporate tax base, apparently reducing government tax revenues. This article uses a very simple example to illustrate that multiple variables can affect the tax-revenue effect of a REIT spinoff and shows that under some assumptions the tax-revenue effect of a REIT spinoff can actually be positive.

February 24, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yale Professors Oppose Proposed Standards of Faculty Conduct

Yale University LogoInside Higher Ed, Yale Professors Object to Vague New Faculty Conduct Policy:

Is a professor sending out a late recommendation letter for a student as bad as one who commits academic misconduct or, say, sexually harasses a colleague? And shouldn’t staff and administrators be held to the same ethical standards as faculty members? Professors at Yale University are asking those questions, among others, and generally scratching their heads at what they say is a “curious” and “confusing” proposed faculty conduct code threatening undefined sanctions for a mishmash of transgressions.

Faculty members who are critical of the document also say it seems like it’s being ramrodded through an appointed committee just weeks ahead of the formation of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ first-ever Faculty Senate.

The university, meanwhile, says the document is an attempt to centralize its various policies regarding faculty conduct.

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February 24, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fennell: Do Not Cite Or Circulate

DNCCLee Anne Fennell (Chicago), Do Not Cite or Circulate, 19 Green Bag 2d ___ (2015):

This short essay ponders why legal scholars attach formulations such as "Do Not Cite or Circulate" to draft works. It argues against the practice in most circumstances, particularly for work posted on the internet.

February 24, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

What’s Worse: Being A Tax Lawyer Or An Accountant?

TaxAbove the Law, What’s Worse: Being A Lawyer Or An Accountant?:

When I practiced law, I used to look forward to tax season. It was the one time of the year where I felt like accountants had it worse than lawyers. Which got me to thinking — which career is worse: lawyers or accountants? Which will disappear sooner? Who’s more boring? ... If you’ve got any good evidence or anecdotal war stories, speak up in the comments sections and let us know what you think. 

February 24, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

ABA Memoranda on New Law School Accreditation Standards

The IRS Scandal, Day 656

IRS Logo 2Washington Times, White House That Promised Transparency Refuses to Cooperate With IRS Probe:

The White House told Congress last week it refused to dig into its computers for emails that could shed light on what kinds of private taxpayer information the IRS shares with President Obama’s top aides, assuring Congress that the IRS will address the issue — eventually. The tax agency has already said it doesn’t have the capability to dig out the emails in question, but the White House’s chief counsel, W. Neil Eggleston, insisted in a letter last week to House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan that the IRS would try again once it finishes with the tea party-targeting scandal.

“It is my understanding that in May 2014, Commissioner Koskinen responded to this request by indicating that the IRS would be able to address new topics such as these following its completion of document productions already in progress,” Mr. Eggleston wrote in a Feb. 17 letter. “To the extent that the committee continues to have an oversight interest in this matter, I encourage you to continue working with the IRS to address those questions.”

But IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s letter last year didn’t say that. Instead Mr. Koskinen said the IRS was logistically incapable of performing the search because it would have required combing through 90,000 email accounts. ...

The White House didn’t assert any privileges in refusing Mr. Ryan’s request last week, instead insisting the IRS would work on it, so there was no need for the president to get involved. That conflicts with Mr. Koskinen’s 2014 letter making clear he didn’t think such a search was feasible from his end. ...

Any official requests for private taxpayer information made by the White House are supposed to be personally signed by the president, and Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation is supposed to be notified of the request. The JCT issues an annual report on all requests for IRS information, and those reports don’t show any such requests from the president during Mr. Obama’s time in office.

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February 24, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)

Monday, February 23, 2015

NLJ: Law School Rankings by Graduates in BigLaw Jobs

National Law Journal, The Go-To Law Schools:

Go ToThe new associate hiring picture at large law firms improved for the third straight year in 2014, but that growth wasn’t due to firms enlarging the size of the first-year associate classes. Instead, a smaller cohort of new law graduates meant that a higher percentage of them could land associate jobs at the largest 250 law firms in the country, even though those firms hired roughly the same number of new associates as in 2013.

We’ve ranked the top 50 law schools by percentage of 2014 juris doctors who took jobs at the largest 250 firms by lawyer head count—as identified in The National Law Journal’s annual survey of the nation’s 350 largest law firms. We also identified the schools that saw the most alumni promoted to partner, and highlighted the 20 schools that outperform their U.S. News & World Report ranking when it comes to large firm hiring. We take an even deeper dive into our annual law school report in our special interactive feature.

The Top 50 Go-To Law Schools:  These schools sent the highest percentage of new graduates to the largest 250 law firms:

RankLaw School2014 Grads at NLJ 2502014 JDs% Grads at NLJ 250TuitionU.S. News Rank
1 Columbia 310 468 66.24% $60,274 4
2 Pennsylvania 177 278 63.67% $56,916 5
3 Chicago 129 211 61.14% $55,503 4
4 NYU 287 479 59.92% $56,838 6
5 Harvard 326 586 55.63% $55,842 2
6 Cornell 101 191 52.88% $59,360 13
7 Northwestern 144 291 49.48% $56,434 12
8 Duke 105 215 48.84% $55,588 10
9 Virginia 163 349 46.70% $51,800 8
10 Stanford 85 187 45.45% $54,366 3
11 UC-Berkeley 115 287 40.07% $48,166 9
12 Michigan 153 390 39.23% $51,398 10
13 Georgetown 239 625 38.24% $53,130 13
14 Yale 80 224 35.71% $56,200 1
15 USC 71 216 32.87% $57,507 20
16 Texas 113 351 32.19% $33,162 15
17 UCLA 102 336 30.36% $45,226 17
18 Vanderbilt 56 194 28.87% $49,722 16
19 Boston Univ. 71 246 28.86% $47,188 27
20 Fordham 119 462 25.76% $52,532 36

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February 23, 2015 in Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ventry & Borden: Probability, Professionalism, and Protecting Taxpayers

Dennis J. Ventry, Jr. (UC-Davis) & Bradley T. Borden (Brooklyn), Probability, Professionalism, and Protecting Taxpayers, 68 Tax Law. 83 (2014):

This Article — the first in a three-part series — analyzes the affirmative and disciplinary duties imposed on tax lawyers that require them to make probability assessments about the merits of a client’s tax position or tax-favored transaction and to reflect those estimates with numerical precision. It describes how the Treasury, Congress, and the American Bar Association (often in concert, occasionally at odds) forged this obligatory standard of care over the last three decades with the shared goal of facilitating accurate advice, accurate reporting positions, and compliance with the law. The resulting regulatory standard of care (which swept aside the old regime of self-regulation) assists tax lawyers in avoiding flawed methodological processes and in minimizing psychological biases and misaligned incentives that can distort professional judgment. In this way, the standard of care for tax lawyers — particularly its emphasis on improving accuracy and reducing errors by updating subjective beliefs with new, relevant information — reflects a branch of probabilistic decision theory known as Bayesian reasoning.

February 23, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chen: Modeling Citation and Download Data in Legal Scholarship

James Ming Chen (Michigan State), Modeling Citation and Download Data in Legal Scholarship:

Impact factors among law reviews provide a measure of influence among these journals and the schools that publish them. Downloads from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) serve a similar function. Bibliometrics is rapidly emerging as a preferred alternative to more subjective assessments of academic prestige and influence. Law should embrace this trend.

This paper evaluates the underlying mathematics of law review impact factors and per-author SSRN download rates by institution.


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February 23, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Review of Vanguard's Tax Structure at Heart of Whistleblower's $1 Billion Tax Claim

VanguardFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Philadelphia Inquirer, IRS Continues to Review Vanguard's Tax Structure:

The Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission are still reviewing allegations that Vanguard Group Inc.'s unusual business structure operates in violation of federal tax law, according to attorneys for former Vanguard tax lawyer David Danon, who brought the allegations to the agencies' attention in 2013.

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February 23, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Op-eds on Death and Dying

Two powerful op-eds on death and dying:

February 23, 2015 in Legal Education, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Duquesne Law School Dean's Nomination to Pennsylvania Supreme Court Threatened by Discrimination Lawsuits by Law Faculty

GormleyTribune, Wolf Nominee to Top Court Causes Stir With Controversial Email:

Senate Republicans received a document anonymously involving the second nominee, Duquesne University School of Law professor Ken Gormley, that included an administrative officer's report from 2007 suggesting there was “sufficient evidence” to support a professor's discrimination claim related to a tenure quest. ...

[F]ederal court records show Gormley was named in at least two lawsuits alleging discrimination and harassment, arising from tenure quests.

One lawsuit, filed in 2010 by former law professor Alice Stewart, was settled out of court under seal in 2011. The other, filed Oct. 31, 2014, by Susan Hascall, alleges religious discrimination and is pending. Hascall is a law professor whose teachings include Islamic law. ...

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February 23, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Fed: The Growing Student Loan Crisis

Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Quarterly Report on House Hold Debt and Credit (Feb. 2015):

Outstanding student loan balances reported on credit reports increased to $1.16 trillion (+$31 billion) as of December 31, 2014, representing about $77 billion increase from one year ago. Student loan delinquency rates worsened in the 4th quarter. About 11.3% of aggregate student loan debt is 90+ days delinquent or in default in 2014Q4, up from 11.1% in the third quarter. 

NY 2

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February 23, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (16)

North Carolina Law Faculty Push Back Against Board's Decision to Close Law School Poverty Center

UNCFollowing up on Thursday's post, North Carolina Board of Governors Committee Votes to Close Law School Poverty Center Founded by John Edwards:  Washington Post, Law Faculty Accuses UNC Panel of Attempting to Chill Free Speech:

[S]cores of members of the law faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill have signed a statement deploring the recommendation to close the poverty center and are also pushing back against another recommendation by the panel: for the university to tighten policies banning political participation and limiting advocacy. This could affect advocacy work done by the law school’s Center for Civil Rights:

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February 23, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (10)

The IRS Scandal, Day 655

IRS Logo 2Forbes, Remember IRS Stonewalling When Filing Your Taxes, by Robert W. Wood:

You have to file a tax return, and you have to be careful. You have to sign it under penalties of perjury. And you have to maintain receipts, logs and proof. And doubts are usually going to be resolved against you. It is understandable that some taxpayers are going to think about these things when they trudge through their returns and get ready to file. And they may think about the IRS stonewalling too. Is the playing field level?

Much ink has been spilled over the dog at my homework excuses emanating from many in our government. When the IRS targeting scandal was uncovered 2 years ago, many Democrats said there was never a smidgen of corruption. Many continue to say that the IRS did its best, no one hid anything, crashes happen, etc. Besides, they will note, these conservative organizations have too much power anyhow. So if the IRS had rogue agents, or if someone did get a little confused about the law down at the IRS in Cincinnati, where’s the harm?

They say it was a ‘witch hunt’ that went on way too long. If so, it is no one’s fault but the government’s, including IRS Chief John Koskinen. Rather than transparency, we had obstructionism at every turn. Commissioner Koskinen recently had a chance to apologize for gaffes and untimely notification of Congress that the tax agency had lost thousands of emails sought by investigators.

At a hearing Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, noted a letter that Mr. Koskinen sent the Senate Finance Committee saying the IRS had handed over everything. Curiously, the letter didn’t even mention that the former Exempt Organizations chief Lois Lerner’s emails had been lost. Mr. Koskinen defended his actions: “Absolutely not. We waited six weeks to tell while trying to find as many of the emails as we could. We gave you all of Ms. Lerner’s emails we had. We couldn’t make up Lois Lerner emails we didn’t have.” ...

David Axelrod, formerly an Obama Administration senior adviser, said that he is proud of the fact that President Obama has never been involved in a major scandal through six years in office. Yes, you heard right. Of course, other observers might say that the IRS scandal certainly seems to qualify as a scandal. Heck, perhaps Benghazi and Fast & Furious were too?

Indeed, in the case of the IRS, as long as Mr. Axelrod was going to give the party line, perhaps Mr. Axelrod might have better used a well-worn phrase: ‘not a smidgen’ of scandal corruption. 

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February 23, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Taxing Oscars: $160,000 Swag Bags and Tax Incentives for Best Picture Nominees

IRS, Gift Bag Questions and Answers:

Q: What are the federal income tax consequences to a person who accepts a gift bag in recognition of involvement in an awards show?
A: In general, the person has received taxable income equal to the fair market value of the bag and its contents and must report that amount on his or her federal income tax return. ...

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February 22, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

800,000 Users in 37 States Received Wrong Tax Information From Government, Leading to 'Mayhem' This Tax Filing Season

HealthNew York Times, Tax Error in Health Act Has Impact on 800,000:

About 800,000 taxpayers who enrolled in insurance policies through received erroneous tax information from the government and were urged on Friday to hold off on filing tax returns until the error could be corrected.

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February 22, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

SSRN LogoThere is a bit of movement in this week's list of the Top 5 Recent Tax Paper Downloads, with a new paper debuting on the list at #1:

  1. [246 Downloads]  Why Corporate Tax Reform Can Happen, by Edward Kleinbard (USC)
  2. [170 Downloads]  David Foster Wallace on Tax Policy, How to Be an Adult, and Other Mysteries of the Universe, by Arthur J. Cockfield (Queen's University)
  3. [145 Downloads]  Fiscally Transparent Entities: Eligibility for Tax Treaty Benefits, by Sumeet Khurana & Ashish Karundia
  4. [133 Downloads]  Taxation and Surveillance -- An Agenda, by Michael Hatfield (University of Washington)
  5. [122 Downloads]  Inevitable: Sports Gambling, State Regulation, and the Pursuit of Revenue, by Anastasios Kaburakis (St. Louis), Ryan M. Rodenberg (Florida State) & John T. Holden (Florida State)

February 22, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Top 5 Downloads | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 654

IRS Logo 2The American Spectator, The Real ‘Dirty Dozen’ at the IRS: For Some Reason, It Fails to Include Itself on its List of Abusers, Scammers, and Cheats:

The IRS just released its “dirty dozen” list of tax scams and schemes for the American people to avoid. In addition to normal phishing and identity theft, a slew of new phone scams around the nation has caught many taxpayers off guard. Plus, unscrupulous return preparers take advantage of confused Americans, especially given that 60 percent of taxpayers need assistance figuring out all those documents, tables, and exemptions. The list also warns the less honest among us to avoid hiding money offshore, in abusive tax shelters, or with false documents. Additionally, it urges people not to falsify income or claim too much in fuel tax credits, either.

But there is an even more concerning “dirty dozen” list that the IRS wants the public to forget.

It’s been almost two years since the news broke that the IRS had been targeting Tea Party, pro-Israel, and other conservative groups — and a scandal erupted. Here are just a select few ways the IRS has mismanaged its problems and shown itself to be incompetent and untrustworthy:

1. Internal emails show these groups were targeted because IRS employees thought them “icky.”

2. Other emails showed that Lois Lerner was conspiring with the Department of Justice to prosecute conservative groups on trumped-up charges.

3. Lerner herself refused to testify to investigating committees and was held in contempt.

4. That didn’t stop her from defending herself to Politico magazine and complaining about being “harassed” for her role.

5. Then, the IRS claimed it had lost the most crucial batch of Lerner’s emails.

6. Oh yeah, and her Blackberry was destroyed too.

7. Six months later, the Tax Inspector General may have found those lost emails. (Still no word yet on what was in them.)

Scandal events aside, the IRS showed its general incompetence in many other ways.

8. IRS workers campaigned for political candidates while on the job.

9. The agency awarded bonuses to its own employees who owed taxes.

10. Guess who was audited ten times more often than the average taxpayer? Supporters of the Tea Party.

11. The IRS illegally shared confidential, protected information with the FBI, the White House, and more.

12. And it has the nerve to constantly ask for a raise.

It all adds up to an agency that doesn’t merit the trust of taxpayers.

For at least three years, the IRS has egregiously wronged this nation — including at least one person on a director level. Yet, it still hasn’t apologized or come clean.

But despite all the excuses and diversions offered by the IRS, the American people are still saying what Senator Ron Johnson expressed: “I smell a rat. I smell a number of rats, and that’s what we are going to get to the bottom of.”

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February 22, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Law School Survival Strategy From a Former Dean: Cut Tuition by 50%

NewsweekNewsweek:  Law Schools: Reform or Go Bust, by James Huffman (Former Dean, Lewis & Clark):

Like it or not, law schools face real business challenges. Demand has declined every year since 2010—not just a little but by nearly 40 percent. The same number of law schools have 33,000 fewer prospective customers than they had five years ago. ...

The longer legal educators remain in denial about the true magnitude of the financial crisis they face, the more devastating will be the crash. It should be obvious to even the casual observer why the existing business model is broken for all but the well-endowed, elite law schools.

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February 21, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

Vanguard Tax Whistleblower's First Day in Court

VanguardFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  Philadelphia Inquirer, Vanguard Whistleblower's First Day in Court:

Last Friday Feb. 13, New York Superior Court Judge Joan Madden held a previously-delayed hearing, in Courtroom 351 of Manhattan's state courthouse way downtown, so she could grill lawyers for both sides on Vanguard Group Inc.'s motion to dismiss former Vanguard tax lawyer David Danon's whistleblower lawsuit, which challenges the legal and expense structure the Malvern investment giant has used over its 40-year history.

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February 21, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Uber, Lyft, and the IRS

LogoSan Francisco Chronicle, Here’s Why Uber and Lyft Send Drivers Such Confusing Tax Forms:

Uber and Lyft say their drivers are independent contractors, not employees. But when it comes to income-tax reporting, they are treated as neither.

Traditional employers send employees, and the Internal Revenue Service, Form W-2, which shows their wages, deductions and other information.

Freelancers and independent contractors typically get Form 1099-MISC (for miscellaneous income) from any person or company that paid them more than $600 the past year.

But people who earn money through Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Task Rabbit and a number of other companies in the sharing economy often get neither form. If they get anything, it’s usually Form 1099-K, a relatively new and confusing document used mainly to report credit and debit card payments and online transactions. ...

If Einstein couldn’t understand the tax system, it’s easy to see why entrepreneurs in the on-demand economy are befuddled. Many are self-employed for the first time and unaware of the need to keep careful records and make estimated tax payments four times a year. They’ve never filed a Schedule C, or paid self-employment taxes. Getting a 1099-K adds to the confusion.

The law that created Form 1099-K was passed in 2008, before most sharing-economy companies were started. Congress saw it as a way to unearth income that was not being reported to the IRS.

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February 21, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 653

IRS Logo 2The Maddow Blog, GOP’s Gowdy Eyes New Conspiracy Theory Panel:

[T]he notion that the Obama presidency has featured “six years of scandal” seems bizarre. David Axelrod boasted this week, accurately, “I’m proud of the fact that basically you have had an administration in this place for six years in which there hasn’t been a major scandal. And I think that says a lot about the ethical strictures of this administration.”

This seemed like a fair thing to brag about, though some congressional Republicans appear to have a very different perspective.

At a Republican Party fundraising breakfast in his district on Wednesday, Representative Trey Gowdy suggested that the congressional GOP needed to investigate the IRS’s scrutiny of political groups with the same intensity that it was investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi.

>“I’m glad that the speaker of the House convened a select committee on Benghazi,” said Gowdy, a former prosecutor who chairs that panel. “I think it makes every bit as much sense to convene a select committee on the IRS. Now that we have the Senate, the Senate has tools the House doesn’t have in terms of getting e-mails and cooperation. It has nothing to do with politics. Do you really want an IRS targeting you based on your political beliefs?”

Gowdy, the head of the eighth Benghazi committee, went on to tell Dave Weigel that “the same reasons for a select committee exist” in the IRS story as Benghazi, “or maybe even greater.” He also complained about “Fast and Furious” and Solyndra because, well, he was apparently on a roll. ...

At a certain level, there’s a kernel of truth to the far-right congressman’s argument: select committees to investigate the IRS and Benghazi are equally sound. Which is to say, both ideas are equally ridiculous.

The IRS “scandal” turned out not to be a scandal at all, and after a year and a half of investigation from congressional Republicans, literally none of the GOP’s allegations turned out to be true. Even by Congress’ standards, the very idea of creating another select committee to investigate another discredited controversy is absurd.

Part of the underlying trouble here is a falsification problem. Republicans are certain the president is up to no good, and when there’s no evidence to support their assumptions, they convince themselves that this proves how corrupt Obama is – the rascally president must be hiding the proof of his misdeeds.

So they keep looking, which leads them to find nothing, which leads them to believe they better keep looking.

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February 21, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Burman Presents Taxes and Inequality in a Changing Economy Today at Florida

BurmanLeonard Burman (Director, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center; Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, Syracuse University Maxwell School), delivers the Fifth Annual Ellen Bellet Gelberg Tax Policy Lecture at Florida today on Taxes and Inequality in a Changing Economy: (webcast):

Rising economic inequality is arguably the economic challenge that will define the United States in the 21st century. Technology, which historically made workers more productive and boosted wages, is increasingly substituting for low- and middle-class labor. As a result, virtually all of the gains from rising productivity have accrued to households at the top of the income distribution. Median wages have been stagnant for a generation and there’s no sign that trend will abate any time soon. This lecture discusses historical trends in economic inequality, its likely causes, and the role of the tax system in mitigating income disparities. [The lecture is based on Taxes and Inequality, 66 Tax L. Rev. 563 (2014).]

February 20, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Boosting Awareness, Citation, and Placement Of Your Next Law Review Article

Harvard Law ReviewDanielle Padula, Don’t Just Build It: How to Boost Awareness of Your Scholarly Publications:

"People will come, Ray"—says Terence Man, played by James Earl Jones, when Kevin Costner’s character questions his decision to build a ball park in the middle of a cornfield in the 1989 film Field of Dreams.

Spoiler Alert: Contrary to this hopeful movie message, if you build it, more than likely, people will not come. This principle holds true for most personal and professional outputs, whether they be middle-of-nowhere baseball stadiums or academic publications.

If you want people to know about your scholarly work you have to give them an accessible place, or ideally variety of places, to learn about it. Accessible has two meanings here—you want to promote your research in places that are easy to access, and you want to explain it in a way that is accessible to a wide audience.

So how can you raise awareness of your scholarly contributions?

  • Become an Expert
  • Write About Your Research and Your Field OFTEN
  • Present Your Findings in a Dynamic Way
  • Seek Speaking Engagements

 Danielle Padula, Proactively Improve Your Law Review Article Citation Rate:

Publishing in law reviews presents the opportunity to contribute scholarship to the legal community with the capacity to impact the research of other scholars and ultimately the way the law is interpreted. In most cases, the impact a law review article will have is dependent upon the number of people who not only read it but also choose to cite it in their own work. Of course, manuscripts worthy of publication and with the power to conceivably move the law must begin with a relevant topic and be written in a clear and compelling way. Beyond how well a manuscript is written though, for many authors without a history of being cited in their field the impact their article will have can often seem to be a matter of luck.

Serendipity aside, are there any steps that legal authors can take prior to being published to improve their chances of citation? ... Here are some potential ways to proactively improve your law review article citation rate:

  • Include an Abstract and Table of Contents
  • Present a Working PaperBefore Submitting
  • Take a Second Look at Your Title and Abstract
  • Become Known in the Legal Community Prior to Being Cited

Jeff Sovern (St. John's), Does Pre-Submission Media Coverage Increase the Odds of a Good Article Placement?:

As law students, law professors, and lawyers know, most law reviews are edited by law students, which means that law students select the articles that appear in their journals.  The prime submission season is just underway, and so newly-minted law review editors—most in their second year of law school—are choosing among the flood of articles submitted by lawyers and law professors.

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February 20, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly Legal Education Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

Tax Profs Remember Marvin Chirelstein

ChirelsteinFollowing up my posts (here and here) on the February 16 death of Yale/Columbia tax legend Marvin Chirelstein: below the fold are remembrances of Marvin from these Tax Profs (and others):

  • Joe Bankman (Stanford)
  • Paul Caron (Pepperdine)
  • Bill Clinton (Former U.S. President)
  • Mark Cochran (St. Mary's)
  • Steve Cohen (Georgetown)
  • Cliff Fleming (BYU)
  • Will Foster (Arkansas-Fayetteville)
  • Michael Graetz (Columbia)
  • Calvin Johnson (Texas)
  • Richard Kaplan (Illinois)
  • Ed Kleinbard (USC)
  • Michael Knoll (Pennsylvania)
  • Al Lauber (Judge, U.S. Tax Court)
  • Michael Livingston (Rutgers-Camden)
  • Jim Maule (Villanova)
  • Philip Oliver (Arkansas-Little Rock)
  • Alex Raskolnikov (Columbia)
  • David Schizer (Columbia)
  • Dan Shaviro (NYU)
  • George Yin (Virginia)

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February 20, 2015 in Legal Education, Obituaries, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Dan Markel's Death Remains a Mystery Seven Months After Shooting

MarkelTallahassee Democrat, Markel's Death Remains a Mystery:

Seven months after someone shot Florida State law professor Dan Markel in the garage of his Betton Hills home, the Tallahassee Police Department has yet to make an arrest or identify a suspect.

It's frustrating to those who knew the 41-year-old father of two. His friends and neighbors worry that the trail has gone cold. But police say they are still working the case. ... Investigators still believe Markel was the "intended target" of whoever killed him, said TPD spokesman Officer David Northway. ...

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February 20, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (5)

Chapman Symposium: Business Tax Reform

Chapman Logo (2014)Symposium, Business Tax Reform: Emerging Issues in the Taxation of U.S. Entities, 18 Chap. L. Rev. 1-314 (2014):

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February 20, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nova Symposium: Transforming Legal Education

NovaSymposium, Transforming Legal Education, 38 Nova L. Rev. 171-322 (2014):

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February 20, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 652

IRS Logo 2The Daily Mail, Longtime Presidential Adviser David Axelrod Claims 'There Hasn't Been a Major Scandal' in the Obama White House – And Draws a Mix of Applause and Laughter:

Longtime Obama administration political insider David Axelrod claimed on Monday that the Obama administration hasn't been tainted by a smidgen of scandal.

The surprising boast came during a Q&A at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, an organization he founded and leads.

'I'm proud of the fact that basically you have had an administration in place for six years in which there hasn’t been a major scandal,' Axelrod said. 'And I think that says a lot about the ethical strictures of this administration.'

Audio and video of Axelrod's remarks indicate the audience's first reaction to his insistence that Obama has presided over a scandal-free government was a chorus of laughs – before friendly attendees quickly drowned them out with applause.

Conservatives have made a parlor game out of cataloging the Obama White House's scandals, with tallies running into the dozens and some organized alphabetically.

The Internal Revenue Service, Americans' most feared and loathed government agency, has had a bumper crop of scandals since Obama took office.

In May 2013 an inspector general report found that the agency spent more than $4.1 million on a single conference in California that included six-figure fees for speakers and expensive video production for a corny Star-Trek themed humor video.

The General Services Administration was caught in a similar conference scandal later that year over an $823,000 in Las Vegas training conference held in 2010. It featured mind-readers, a clown and lavish hotel suites with jacuzzis. The GSA administration resigned over the flap.

Also in May 2013, the IRS was plunged into scandal over news that its Tax-Exempt Organizations section was subjecting Tea Party groups and conservative-oriented charities to intrusive screening and years-long delays before granting them tax-exempt status – while liberal groups were often given a pass.

The IRS later claimed to Congress that years worth of emails belonging to retired official Lois Lerner, who is thought to be responsible, were destroyed in a hard drive crash.

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February 20, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

W&L Law School Permanently Reduces 1L Class to 100 (Down 47% From 2012), Eliminates 6 Faculty and 6 Staff Positions, Cuts or Freezes All Faculty Salaries, and Invades Corpus of Endowment

W&L Logo (2014)Washington & Lee School of Law Strategic Transition Plan:

n response to the changes in the legal profession and legal education nationally, Washington and Lee's School of Law has adopted a proactive approach to stabilize the school's enrollment and financial structure without sacrificing its special strengths. The University's senior administration, in consultation with a working group of faculty and administrators within the law school and a task force of trustees, has developed a strategic initiative that is now being implemented after being presented to the Board of Trustees at its winter meeting this month.

As outlined in the bullet points below, Washington and Lee's law school intends to protect its core values, including its emphasis on educating students for professional integrity, as well as its defining characteristics of personalized attention, strong student-faculty relationships, and an innovative curriculum. At the same time, the financial framework will enable the school to return to self-sufficiency by the 2017-18 academic year.

Highlights of the Plan

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February 19, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (8)

Gamage Presents Analyzing the Optimal Choice of Tax Instruments Today at Northwestern

Gamage (2014)David Gamage (UC-Berkeley) presents Analyzing the Optimal Choice of Tax Instruments: The Case for Levying (all of) Labor-Income Taxes, Value-Added Taxes, Capital-Income Taxes, and Wealth Taxes, 68 Tax L. Rev. ___ (2014), at Northwestern yesterday as part of its Tax Colloquium Series hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

Economics-oriented analyses of tax policy have primarily focused on the problems of labor-to-leisure and saving-to-spending distortions. By implication, this prior literature has thus generally treated: (a) labor-income taxes and (b) consumption taxes, as being essentially equivalent. Similarly, this prior literature has generally treated: (i) capital-income taxes and (ii) wealth taxes, as being essentially equivalent. Based on these notions of equivalency, the dominant view about the policy implications that follow from these economic analyses has been that neither capital income nor wealth should be taxed.

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February 19, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Winer Presents The Tension Between Tax Design and the Political Economy of Taxation Today at UCLA

WinerStanley Winer (Carleton University) presents On the Tension Between Tax Design and the Political Economy of Taxation at UCLA today as part of its Colloquium on Tax Policy and Public Finance hosted by Jason Oh and Alexander Wu:

Background paper:  Wealth Transfer Taxation: An Empirical Investigation, 21 Int'l Tax & Pub. Fin. 720 (2014):   We present an empirical model of wealth transfer taxation in the revenue systems of the G7 countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U. K. and the U. S. - over the period from 1965 to 2009. Our model emphasizes the influences of population aging and of the stock of household wealth in an explanation of the past and likely future of this tax source. Simulations with the model using U.N. demographic projections and projections of household wealth suggest that even in France and Germany where reliance on wealth transfer taxation has been increasing for part of the period studied, wealth transfer taxes can be expected to wither away as population aging deepens over the next three decades. Our results indicate that recent tax designs that rely upon the taxation of wealth transfers to preserve equity in the face of declining taxation of capital incomes may be, in this respect, politically infeasible for the foreseeable future. We conclude by using the case of wealth transfer taxation to raise the general question of the extent to which the consistency of a proposed reform with expected political equilibria ought to play a role in the design of a normative policy blueprint.

February 19, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Council of Economic Advisers: Business Tax Reform and Economic Growth

CouncilWhite House, Economic Report of the President (Together With the Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisers (Feb. 2015) (419 pages):

Chapter 5, Business Tax Reform and Economic Growth (39 pages):

This chapter reviews the role of productivity in long-run growth and summarizes the international context for business tax reform. It then describes the President’s approach to business tax reform and examines how that approach can increase productivity and output. The chapter concludes with a consideration of alternative approaches to reform.

Figure 5-2

Figure 5-4

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February 19, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Cauble: Taxing Publicly Traded Entities

Emily Cauble (DePaul), Taxing Publicly Traded Entities, 6 Colum. J. Tax L. ___ (2015):

Publicly traded entities are generally treated as corporations for U.S. tax purposes. Under various exceptions, however, publicly traded entities may obtain special treatment if they earn predominately certain specified types of qualifying income. This Article examines potential rationales for granting special tax treatment to certain publicly traded entities. As the analysis in this Article will show, many of the potential rationales are unconvincing. In addition, to the extent that some rationales may be persuasive, the current rules are not designed in a way that best comports with these potential justifications. Therefore, reform is needed.

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February 19, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

North Carolina Board of Governors Committee Votes to Close Law School Poverty Center Founded by John Edwards

UNCInside Higher Ed, Who Is Being Political?:

There is wide agreement in North Carolina that Gene Nichol is an articulate and forceful advocate for the impoverished of his state, unafraid to criticize political leaders who in his opinion aren't doing enough about poverty. Nichol does so from an academic perch. He is a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and leads the university's Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

On Wednesday, a committee of the board of the University of North Carolina System voted to kill the center, along with a biodiversity center at East Carolina University and a civic engagement and social change center at North Carolina Central University. Conservatives in the state have long complained that some UNC centers (and especially the poverty center) were being used for political attacks on Republican politicians and so had no place in the university.

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February 19, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fleischer: 8 Tax Loopholes the Obama Administration Could Close

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times Deal Book:  8 Tax Loopholes the Obama Administration Could Close, by Victor Fleischer (San Diego):

President Obama’s State of the Union address revealed a streak of assertiveness and defiance that had been sorely lacking in the tax policy world. The budget proposal for the 2016 fiscal year is a work of ambition and resolve, laying down important markers in anticipation of negotiating an overhaul of the business and international tax code provisions. ...

I offer eight suggestions for the Treasury Department to act on. There are dozens of possibilities, but I focus on proposals that are of interest to DealBook readers and are consistent with President Obama’s renewed interest in business tax policy.

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February 19, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kerr: Senior Law Faculty Are Just as Productive as Junior Faculty

The Volokh Conspiracy:  Law Faculty Productivity Over Time, by Orin Kerr (George Washington):

It’s generally understood that faculty productivity declines over time. The common wisdom is that professors write up a storm to get tenure; they then write somewhat less mid-career; and they don’t do much writing at all when they are senior. There has been some study of this dynamic in the sciences. As far as I know, however, this pattern hasn’t actually been measured at law schools. I recently decided to measure it at my own law school, George Washington University. The results really surprised me, as they suggested no change in productivity over time. ...

First, we can see how productivity changed over time for the faculty as a whole; second, we can see the changes within each cohort over time; and third, we can compare productivity of different cohorts at the same stage of their careers.

The chart below shows the results. The vertical axis is the average number of published articles per year, and the horizontal axis represents five-year bands of time starting at the beginning of each professor’s career and moving on over time.

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February 19, 2015 in Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Choi: Tax Commitment Devices

Jonathan H. Choi (Wachtell, New York), Tax Commitment Devices, 15 J. Bus. & Sec. L. 1  (2015):

Every line of the Internal Revenue Code is continually vulnerable to revision or repeal. With each new session of Congress, rates may rise or fall, transactions may become taxable or tax-free, and incentive programs may be extended or repealed. The resulting uncertainty harms taxpayers, who find it difficult to plan their future business affairs. It frustrates government by making its incentive programs less effective. For example, firms may decline to invest in research facilities because they cannot rely on a tax credit that might soon expire. And it provides fodder for political rent-seeking, as legislators can demand money or votes in exchange for supporting a soon-to-expire tax break. This was recently seen in the furor over bonus depreciation, a purportedly temporary provision that has been the subject of furious lobbying and frequent renewal.

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February 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Katz & Margolis: The Role of Leadership and Curricular Change in Transforming Legal Education

Martin Katz (Dean, Denver) & Kenneth R. Margolis (Case Western), Transforming Legal Education as an Imperative in Today's World: Leadership and Curricular Change:

This article is a chapter in the new book, Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World (Deborah Maranville, Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Wilkes Kaas & Antoinette Sedillo Lopez eds., forthcoming Lexis 2015.) The article aims to identify and explore the emerging best practices for law school leaders in encouraging both individual and institution-wide reform. The authors identify and discuss the differing interests of the various stakeholders in legal education: students, faculty, university administrators, alumni and practitioners, potential clients, and society at large. They urge reformers to take the interests of the various stakeholders into account, obtain input from them, and set reform goals with their interests in mind. The authors discuss various models for engaging in the process of reform and some of the factors that will lead to sustainable change. They further describe the importance of reform being “data driven” and some of the processes that can be used to obtain helpful data. They urge reformers to be deliberative and collaborative and, at the same time, bold and timely by establishing clear timelines and deadlines for various steps in the process. The authors then discuss the most significant barriers to institutional and curricular reform, and how they can be overcome: the need for balance in teaching, scholarship and service of faculty members; concerns about academic freedom; cultural inertia and law school rankings; faculty fears about time, expertise and negative student reactions to change; and cost. Finally, the authors urge law school administrators to use incentives to enlist faculty as “change agents” and to expand teacher training programs to meet the new demands.

February 19, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 651

IRS Logo 2Bloomberg, Trey Gowdy: Time for a Select Committee to Investigate the IRS Scandal:

At a Republican Party fundraising breakfast in his district on Wednesday, Representative Trey Gowdy suggested that the congressional GOP needed to investigate the IRS's scrutiny of political groups with the same intensity that it was investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. 

"I'm glad that the speaker of the House convened a select committee on Benghazi," said Gowdy, a former prosecutor who chairs that panel. "I think it makes every bit as much sense to convene a select committee on the IRS. Now that we have the Senate, the Senate has tools the House doesn't have in terms of getting e-mails and cooperation. It has nothing to do with politics. Do you really want an IRS targeting you based on your political beliefs?" ...

In an interview after the breakfast, Gowdy said that he'd mentioned the idea of a select committee on the IRS to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and that Ohio Representative Jim Jordan would be an ideal candidate to run it. The investigations of 2013 and 2014, often chaired by then-Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (now retired), had gotten out some of the truth. But the newly empowered GOP could force the executive branch to release documents that it insisted on concealing.

The same reasons for a select committee exist there, or maybe even greater," he said. "There's this tendency to over-claim executive privilege. Look, Eric Holder is a smart lawyer. He knows the e-mails that he sends to his wife are not protected by executive privilege. But he didn't want to give us one of them because in it, he referred to us as 'asses.' Look—we know we're asses. You don't have to worry about hurting our feelings. That's not the first time any of us have heard that. So why not give us the documents?"

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February 19, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kleinbard Presents We Are Better Than This Today at Pepperdine

Kleinbard (2015)Edward Kleinbard (USC) presents We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Colloquium Series:

We Are Better Than This fundamentally reframes budget debates in the United States. Author Edward D. Kleinbard explains how the public's preoccupation with tax policy alone has obscured any understanding of government's ability to complement the private sector through investment and insurance programs that enhance the general welfare and prosperity of our society at large.

He argues that when we choose how government should spend and tax, we open a window into our "fiscal soul," because those choices are the means by which we express the values we cherish and the regard in which we hold our fellow citizens. Though these values are being diminished by short-sighted decisions to starve government, strategic government spending can directly make citizens happier, healthier, and even wealthier.

Expertly combining the latest economic research with his insider knowledge of the budget process into a simple yet compelling narrative, he unmasks the tax mythologies and false arguments that too often dominate contemporary discourse about budget policies. Large quantities of comparative data are succinctly distilled to situate the United States among its peer countries, so that readers can judge for themselves whether contemporary budget choices really reflect our aspirational fiscal soul,

Kleinbard's presentation takes a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on economics, finance, law, political science and moral philosophy. He uniquely weaves economic research and moral philosophy together by emphasizing our welfare, not just our national income, and by contrasting the actual beliefs of Adam Smith, a great moral philosopher, with the cartoon version of the man presented by proponents of the most extreme forms of private market triumphalism.

Update:  Post-presentation lunch:

Photo 2


February 18, 2015 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)